Highland Mall opened in 1971 as Austin’s first enclosed suburban mall, but, like Valley View Center in Dallas, it was ultimately outflanked by competition from newer malls. It closed in 2015.
In 2009, RedLeaf Properties paired up with Austin Community College to convert the mall buildings into a campus to ultimately serve up to 20,000 students. The first phase opened in 2014 in a former J. C. Penney anchor store and serves about 6,000 students per semester.
The campus, four miles from downtown Austin and the Texas Capitol, will serve as the center of an 81-acre development that will include retail stores, offices, about 1,200 residential units and three new parks connected by jogging trails. The overall vision, said Matt Whelan, the founder of RedLeaf, was to transform a dying mall “into an academic-anchored mix-use area where people could learn, people could work, could live, and play and recreate.”